The Thorn Bush

We attacked the thorn bush today.

Some would say a rose bush.

We have been attacked by its thorny vines for a year now.

Today, we fought back.

11891286-Cutted-rose-lines-with-silhouettes--Stock-Photo-thorns-rose-pain

If the roses were blooming and gave off that rosey scent, we may have hesitated.

In this drought, and without constant watering, there were no blooms, nor a scent.

Instead, there were thorn-studded vines climbing their way over our gutter, and along our window.

***

The ancient bush was a literal tangle of thorns.

Wrapped in tense interlocking lines, each vine was in need of separation.

The bush spiked us a few times, but the pile grew substantial.

The wild bush was tamed. The gutter was free.

The compost bin was filled once again, as it has been so many weekends this summer.

When finished, we wiped the sweat from our brow.

I heard the bush whisper, “We will meet again…”

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White Privilege Articulated, Two Years Later

I wrote about my own understanding of white privilege two years ago. It seemed like a good time to think it through again, as I’m about to step into a world that exists without many privileges at all.

In the last two years, I’ve continued to read, study, and reflect on social justice and what it means to me. I’ve felt optimism and cynicism, hopefulness and helplessness. I suppose continuing to feel anything is the most important thing, other than stepping back and trying to reflect.

Progress seems slow, and then comes in leaps and bounds (Supreme Court decisions), and then reverts back to a glacial pace.

Atticus Finch is thrust back into the cultural spotlight, but now he’s racist. A hero to many becomes a complicated symbol, further complicated by the literary veracity of the publication. Wasn’t he always a complicated figure? Always reserved and seeking the order of law? Existing in the South in the 1950’s doesn’t make a white person a racist, but growing up as a white man in the South in the 30’s and 40’s would make it nearly impossible NOT to have a simple, paternalistic view of African-Americans. We would like Atticus to be pure in his heart. We would like to imagine a freedom fighter who stood in a sea of hate and created change.

Prequel or not, the South of the 1950’s will never not exist, just as the South of today will never not exist, just as the prison industrial complex will never not exist, just as the nature of our country’s past will never change. How we see the past may change. Our awareness of the present issues all people of color face in the United States is changing. The demographics of our country are changing. And yet, the pace will always feel glacial to those that are oppressed and for those that struggle for justice.

***

Yes, you 

Yes, you are probably tired of hearing the names George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin.

Yes, you may be upset about the laws in Florida.

Yes, you may be angry about all the guns in our country.

Yes, you may not feel all that privileged in your daily life.

Yes, you may not make much money.

Yes, you may not have a strong sense of your own identity.

Yes, you may not spend much time thinking about how you fit into society.

Yes, you may think you are similar to most other people.

Yes, you may be surrounded by seemingly similar people with seemingly similar ideas.

Yes, you may not be an individualist.

Yes, you may not be highly educated.

Yes, your culture may be focused on the collective, rather than the individual.

Yes, there are thousands of reasons that keep you from considering the ways in which

……you have it good.

Yes, there are hundreds of reasons that keep you from thinking about the ways in which

……you are lucky.

Yes, there are.

One fact about privilege is that it is hardest to confront among those that have it.

We are

We are told we are smart and have earned everything that we have achieved.

We are told we are special.

We are told not to limit ourselves and to think broadly.

We are told that bad people are in jail and that good people are free.

We are told that athletes are on earth to sell us things rather than to be appreciated for their effort, perseverance and grace.

We are told that we have made progress.

We are told that things used to be worse.

We are told that the internet connects us, and that technology is making the world better in every way.

We are told to live in fear of those around us.

We are told to buy things in order to make ourselves feel better.

We are told to pray.

We are told to work long hours and then buy more things.

We are told to stay busy, to get busy, to exercise like crazy, but not to sit and think.

No, our

No, our system is not working, not enough.

No, our collective interest in humanity’s progress is not evident, not enough.

No, our people are not listening to each other, but instead talking over each other, when they are even speaking at all.

No, our people do not recognize that every child is their child.

No, our people do not look in the eyes of the people they meet today.

No, our humanity is not evident on a daily basis.

Yes, we

Yes, we can stop ignoring each other.

Yes, we can stop thinking of ourselves.

Yes, we can stop believing that everything is okay, and fill ourselves with hope by listening for the stories around us.

Yes, we can stop defeating our own political system with our apathy.

Yes, we can be better parents, children, siblings, and friends.

Yes, we can be better strangers as we walk down the street.

Yes, we can wake up.

Would I?

Would I be attempting to articulate my own privilege had I not been educated to think critically?

Nope.

Would I bother writing something about privilege and posting it publicly had I not been parented by people whose own parents valued education and were in positions of privilege themselves?

Probably not.

Would I keep asking rhetorical questions and thinking about the big picture if I hadn’t been given the desire to delve into consciousness, psychology, and sociology through my own experience in school and with the reading-focused family I was born into?

Not at all.

Would I think about White privilege the same way if my features didn’t suggest to so many people that I have Jewish blood?

Maybe not.

I’m lucky enough to see how much better America could be than what it shows itself to be on most days.

***

Remember how good you have it, especially when you feel like you don’t.

Jonah

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Ode to Phil Pressey, Diminutive Back-Up Point Guard (Future Los Angeles Clipper reserve)

The Phil Pressey Era has ended in Boston. GM Danny Ainge accidentally drafted too many guards (well, perhaps on purpose…Terry Rozier looked good in summer league) and now mighty Phil has been waived. Here’s a look back at one of the craftiest and gritty point guards to don Celtic green in the last decade. The little engine that could: Phil Pressey. Let’s hope he catches on with another team soon…

***

 

Without shoes, Phil Pressey is 5’9″ and one-half inches tall.  He is the son of former NBA-player Paul Pressey, a two-time NBA All-Defensive team player who was a stabilizing force for the Milwaukee Bucks of the 1980s.  Paul Pressey is 6’5″.  His other son, Matt, is 6’2″.  Both Matt and Phil played hoops at the University of Missouri.  It was the younger Pressey, listed at 5’11” (with shoes), who found his way onto an NBA court.  When you watch Phil Pressey scramble around the TD Garden parquet, you can’t help but appreciate the low odds, the mere fact that he is there, scrapping and clawing with his skilled ball-handling and his defensive determination.  As I watched Pressey with fellow Celtics fan friends Jared and Eric a few weeks ago, we wondered how short his mom must be, considering his dad is 6’5″.  Though we were able to use the tools of the interweb to discover his mother played college hoops at Tulsa, we were unable to gain this critical bit of information.

Phil Pressey did something good.  Jared Sullinger was thankful.

Phil Pressey did something good. Jared Sullinger was thankful.

As a 5’8″ high school senior, Phil Pressey dunked on some unknown taller player.  The kind of play that epitomizes his fearlessness.

Phil Pressey’s sophomore season at Missouri began to make scouts drool.  Surrounded by talented shooters, Pressey’s penetration and court-vision sparked Missouri’s offense.  He finished the season with 6.4 assists per game. Though his shooting was suspect, Pressey’s game was gaining notice. Over the course of three seasons at Missouri, Pressey never shot better than 42.8% from the field, and his best season behind the college arc was a mere 36.5%.

Like Tyrone “Muggsy” Bogues before him, Pressey made his impact on the defensive end, hounding opponents and averaging 2 steals per game through his college career.  His draft profile highlighted his ball-handling and play-making ability, as well as his quickness.  Pressey handed out over 7 assists per game as a junior.  The decision to enter the NBA draft after a solid, but not spectacular, junior season, was a curious one. As the draft wound down, Pressey found himself without a team.

With Rajon Rondo on the sideline for what looked to be like a sizable chunk of the upcoming season, Celtics GM Danny Ainge had an eye on the pint-sized point guard.  After a nice stretch in the summer league, Ainge quietly signed Pressey to a three-year league-minimum salary.  What did Ainge see in Pressey?  A younger, less dynamic, but more stable version of the electric Nate Robinson? Another Muggsy Bogues?  Pressey’s quickness, and his ability to make the right decisions with steady ball-handling and pick-and-roll awareness made him a high-floor prospect.  At worst, Pressey can take care of the ball, while pushing the pace, and offering himself as a nuisance on defense.  At best, he will develop a jump-shot and raise his ceiling considerably.  Remember, some of the biggest steals of the draft over the last few years are players whose shooting range was suspect coming out of school (Rajon Rondo, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard).

Starting an NBA career

Thirty-one games into his young career, Pressey is doing exactly as advertised.  In 12 minutes per game, Little Phil is averaging 2.1 assists to only 0.7 turnovers (a 3:1 ratio).  He’s also caused some havoc by collecting a total of 23 steals.  A juicy nugget: 23 steals and only 21 turnovers.  That is downright lovely.  Unfortunately, Pressey’s inability to connect with the net is painfully obvious. The numbers: 4 of 27 from distance (14.8% is rather unseemly).  From within the arc, he hasn’t been much better: 15 of 47 (32%). In fact, Pressey is one of the few NBA players with whom you can play the game: Will he or won’t he take a shot?  In two games, Pressey has played 14+ minutes and refused to shoot.  He has attempted a single field goal in 11 games.  Watching the Celtics bench attempt to score can be rather painful, as they’ve been playing a five-man group (Pressey-Lee-Wallace-Humphries-Olynyk) that has three offensive liabilities on the court at one time.  With Courtney Lee now in Memphis, Jerryd Bayless or Keith Bogans will be taking up the reserve 2-guard role until Rondo’s return, which will slide Crawford to the bench.

On the whole, despite the woeful outside shot, Phil Pressey’s presence has been a plus.  Given more productive shooters around him, he’d be even more valuable, as he can create off the dribble, something the Celtics sorely need.  Practicing against Rajon Rondo will only further to develop his already good defensive game.

Really, though, there’s one reason I’m writing about Phil Pressey: I love watching the little guys.  Under six feet tall and in the NBA? The man is determined.  Tell him he’s too small.  Tell him he can’t shoot.  Tell him he’s lucky to be there.  He’s on a mission to show the NBA he belongs.  We’re behind you, Phil.

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